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Prep Football: A.L. Brown plays the big game first

This is the first in a series of football practices at
area high schools.

Today: A.L. Brown
Thursday: South Rowan

Football edition: Aug. 21

KANNAPOLIS — Might as well start the season off with a bang. And that’s exactly what A.L. Brown is doing Aug. 23 when arch-rival Concord visits Alumni Stadium.
The “Bell Game” used to come at the end of the season but with realignment splitting the two schools up, they now meet early.
“We open with the Daytona 500,” Wonders coach Mike Newsome smiled. “That’s what I call it. NASCAR runs its Super Bowl the first race. Why can’t we do it with the big Bell Game? A lot of people are disappointed it’s the first game. It’ll be neat.”
The Wonders will certainly be focused, despite losing Division I players like Kalif Phillips to Charlotte and Keeon Johnson to Virginia. New stars like Johnny Delohoussey and Caleb Spry will make sure of that.
“Being the first game will make it intense,” Newsome said. “We want to win the bell. It’s getting close. We’ll be ready.”

THE NUMBERS: It doesn’t seem right that the Wonders aren’t in the Southern Piedmont 3A with Concord and the other Cabarrus and Rowan schools. But the numbers showed Brown to be a 4A school and it’s headed to the MeckA 4A.
The Wonders and J.M. Robinson are replacing Mooresville and Lake Norman. They join North Mecklenburg, Hopewell, Hough, Mallard Creek, Vance and West Charlotte.
How close were the numbers? Newsome said the school was only six students over the 3A limit, making it one of the 4A’s smallest enrollments.
“It’s a little unfortunate but it’s the nature of the beast,” said Newsome, who coached at Butler before coming to Kannapolis. “We’ll face the challenges.”
Which include having 800 or so fewer students than last year’s champion Mallard Creek, for instance.
Newsome added there was talk of a split 3A/4A league but it didn’t work out. So he is accepting his team’s new conference and the Wonders are working hard.
“We’re practicing to play football,” he said. “That’s the way we’re focused on it. We’ll be a small 4A — but you never know what will happen.”

NONCONFERENCE: Out of the league, Brown plays South Rowan in Week 2. It also plays Weddington and Berry.

THE ARM: Newsome received a pleasant surprise last year when Andrew Ramirez took over at quarterback due to injuries and played extremely well, leading the Wonders to a 10-4 record and into the 3AA quarterfinals.
“He’s back and that’s a good thing having someone with varsity experience,” Newsome said. “Really and truly, we don’t have anybody in that backfield or among our skill people who are back.”
Asked how he would replace Phillips and Johnson, Newsome quipped, “Everybody asked how we’d replace Damien Washington (now at North Carolina) and we did that pretty well. Kannapolis always has someone to step up.”
Don’t forget the Wonders also lost 1,000-yard rusher Ricky Sherrill and Dante Pinkston, who accumulated 1,000 yards combined on the ground and through the air.

THE NEW STARS: Newsome will rely on players like receiver Delohoussey and center Spry.
Newsome said Delohoussey had done well at camps while Spry has already received offers from Western Carolina and Gardner-Webb.

THE NEW COACH: Brown’s staff remains the same except for one addition: Josh Carter, who has come over after several years at Carson.
“He married a Kannapolis girl so we got him to move,” Newsome said.
Newsome added, “We’ve also got great volunteers.”

AND BABY MAKES 4: Last year at this time, we were talking about Newsome’ and wife Laura’s first child, a daughter, now 18 months old. He announces there’s another addition: five-month-old Yates Michael.
“He’s a go-getter,” Newsome joked. “He’s already doing bench pressing, back-pedaling and linebacker drop drills.”
Newsome said he wouldn’t have minded another daughter because the girls would have been so close in age, they could’ve been best friends.
“But it’s a joy for any football coach to have a son,” he said.

FORMER RAIDER: When Daveon Perry was a freshman at South Rowan, coaches were already crowing about how good he would be. The junior defensive back is reaching his potential, just with the Wonders.
“He’ll collect a lot of interest (from colleges),” Newsome said.

TRADITION: A.L. Brown may be in a new conference. There may be new players. But there is one thing that remains the same:
The intimidating “K” on the helmet.
“I think the ‘K’ speaks for itself,” Newsome said. “It brings a lot of mystique and tradition. It’s even on the coaching shirts. You shouldn’t have to put anything on but the green K.”

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